May 4, 2022 by J-Wire Newsdesk
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Zionism Victoria has written to the Chancellor and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Melbourne regarding the resolution adopted Friday by the Melbourne University Students’ Union (UMSU) titled ‘UMSU stands with Palestine – BDS and solidarity politics”.
Although Zionism Victoria represents 56 Jewish organizations within the state, the letter was also written on behalf of national organizations, including the Executive Council of Australian Jewry, the Jewish Community Council of Victoria, the Zionist Federation of Australia, the Australasian Union of Jewish Students (AUJS) and the Australian Zionist Youth Council.
The full letter:
“Despite its claims, the resolution is clearly detrimental to the rights and welfare of Jewish students at the university and in this case, on behalf of the leaders of the Victorian and Australian Jewish community, we urge you, as senior university leaders to urgently condemn the resolution.
While we have no problem with the union expressing its solidarity with the Palestinian people, much of the content of the resolution is not only factually inaccurate and inflammatory, but also undoubtedly anti-Semitic.
As stated, our primary concern is the welfare of Jewish students at the university, who have the right to regard their campus as a safe and secure environment, respectful of their culture, identity and beliefs.
We note that the annual report on anti-Semitism in Australia published by the Executive Council of Australian Jewry has recorded a steady increase, year after year, in the number of anti-Semitic incidents, including the number of complaints of harassment and intimidation directed against Jewish students. on the campus.
The overwhelming majority of Jewish students define themselves as Zionists, Zionism being simply a belief in the right of the Jewish people to self-determination in the State of Israel.
This does not preclude the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination, and indeed all major Jewish community organizations and the recent Israeli government are committed to a two-state solution with mutually agreed recognizable and secure borders established through negotiations. .
Thus, to label Zionism “racist” and “colonial” is not only to deprive Jewish students of a central pillar of their identity, it is also hypocritical to insist, as the resolution does, on the Palestinian people – and, indeed, on all people – having the right to self-determination.
Historically, AUJS has been at the forefront of campaigns at universities nationwide to promote inclusivity, fight racism and discrimination, and protect the rights and welfare of minorities on campus. But in this case, the rights and welfare of their own members have been set aside.
As for terms such as “ethnic cleansing” and “apartheid”, no one denies that there are inequalities in Israeli society – as there are in any society – but the use of these terms is not only manifestly erroneous, it is anti-Semitic. and likely to incite racial hatred.
In this context, it should be noted that Israel’s declaration of independence guarantees equality before the law and freedom of worship, Arab citizens have the right to vote and participate fully in all areas of Israeli society. . There are Arab/Muslim judges, Arab/Muslim heads of academic faculties, Arab/Muslim heads of medical institutions, Arab/Muslim artists and sports stars, and not only there are Arab/Muslim political parties in the Israeli Parliament (the Knesset), since last year, an Arab-Muslim party has been a member of Israel’s coalition government.
Terms such as “ethnic cleansing” and “apartheid” are therefore lacking in foundation and are highly loaded and damaging, making it nearly impossible for any student to voice support for Israel or speak up for it when attacked.
In addition, the motion adopted by the Student Union states that it “condemns all forms of anti-Semitism”.
However, the motion goes against the examples of anti-Semitism cited by the most widely accepted and recognized definition of anti-Semitism within the international community, namely the International Holocaust Working Definition of Anti-Semitism. Remembrance Alliance (IHRA).
The IHRA definition has been adopted and/or endorsed by at least 40 countries, including Australia, the United States, the United Kingdom, France and Germany, as well as countless institutions and leaders international organizations, including the European Union and the UN Secretary-General, and many States. /local governments, including the NSW government, academic institutions and municipal authorities around the world.
The Victorian Opposition also passed it, and the Victorian Government is now considering its adoption.
Just last week, the town of Glen Eira, home to Australia’s largest Jewish population, voted to adopt the IHRA definition.
Examples cited by the IHRA that cross the line into anti-Semitism include “claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist enterprise” and “denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination.”
However, the UMSU resolution does both of these things, so for the union to claim in the resolution that it “condemns all forms of anti-Semitism” is clearly absurd.
Meanwhile, calling for an academic boycott of Israel and expressing solidarity with the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign, which is itself committed to a one-state solution – hence the eradication of the Jewish state – is also anti-Semitic.
According to the IHRA definition – again the most widely recognized and accepted definition in the world – it is anti-Semitic to apply double standards to Israel, “by requiring of it behavior that is not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation”.
In view of all of the above – the threat the resolution poses to Jewish students, the likelihood that it will incite racial hatred, the anti-Semitic nature of its claims and the lies on which they are based – a statement from senior University leadership would send a critical signal that the University of Melbourne does not tolerate the marginalization of minorities on campus and will not tolerate any manifestations of anti-Semitism.
Ideally, the statement should note that certain sentiments expressed in the resolution are viewed by the overwhelming majority of Jewish students and the community as anti-Semitic, a view the University considers well-founded; and that the University dissociates itself from and repudiates the opinions expressed in the resolution and its call for boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel.
We also urge the University to adopt the IHRA definition of anti-Semitism to signify that the leadership condemns a culture that permits anti-Semitism of the type contained in the resolution.
Ultimately, a message must be sent that Jewish students can be proud of their identity and not be forced to conceal it. »